The Making of A Milestone and the Power to Protect
Apr 23, 2012
Today happens to be my youngest daughter’s 7th birthday – a milestone for her and a day that she has been anticipating for weeks now. As a typical seven-year old girl she has everything planned, right down to the sprinkles on the cupcakes she wanted me to bring into her first grade class.
Unfortunately, yesterday I had to deliver her some bad news. I wouldn’t be there to jump on her bed and wake her with my silly birthday song like I do year after year. And I wouldn’t be there to deliver the much-anticipated cupcakes.
Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed about it last night.
See, I traveled to Texas this weekend to address the Texas Pediatric Society and discuss parental vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. After enduring 15 hours of torturous travel, only to enjoy a brief 20 hour visit, I was experienced another unfortunate airline debacle on my return flight. Having to unexpectedly stay another night away from my family, I sat frustrated in my lonely hotel room, upset that I would not be home for my daughter’s birthday.
As I thought about this milestone she would be celebrating without me, I thought about the incredible joy that she brings into my life. I imagined her sweet voice, her precious smile, and the contagious giggles she would have made if I had been able to wake her with my crazy birthday antics. Like any mother, I simply can’t imagine my life without her in it.
And then my bitterness suddenly turned to appreciation, as I remembered what I’ve learned as a Shot@Life champion.
An estimated 1.5 million children die each year of a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine.
Their mothers may never have had the chance to see their children reach their seventh birthday. And even though I may not be present to share in my daughter’s birthday, I realize how fortunate and privileged I am that she is here to experience it.
One of the reasons I started writing this blog almost two years ago was to educate and inform parents about immunization issues that we are facing in this country today. I have written about everything from the risk of disease in a growing unvaccinated population, to the changes in the recommended vaccine schedule, to the impact of school vaccine exemptions. I have brought attention to various measles outbreaks, the infant lives lost to pertussis, as well addressing the damaging myths that have prevented parents from getting their children immunized.
To be honest, I never imagined that there would be enough material to write a blog that is strictly about immunizations. But clearly, there is!
One of my goals from the onset has been to provide information that could help parents address their vaccine questions and concerns. While the majority of parents in this country fully vaccinate their children according to the recommended schedule, there continues to be a small percentage of parents who have concerns about immunizations. Some are choosing to selectively vaccinate or delay vaccines. Some are choosing to refrain from vaccinating all together.
The point is that these parents have the luxury of a choice – a choice that many other parents in the world do not have.
In the developing world, some moms walk 15 miles to receive life-saving vaccines for their child. Sadly, these parents have witnessed the devastating consequences from these diseases, and they often live in fear of losing their child to a disease that can easily be prevented.
Somewhere in this world, a child dies from a vaccine preventable disease every 20 seconds!
This is an astounding statistic!
But, it’s not just a statistic we are talking about.
It’s the life of a child.
A child who has been robbed of their shot at life. A child who will never see the milestone of their 7th birthday. A child born into a family that will forever grieve their loss. A child that deserves better from a world that can actually prevent their death.
This weekend, one of the pediatricians I was with shared a picture of people lining up in the U.S. many years ago to receive the small pox vaccine. We’ve come a long way in this country since then. But it’s important to realize that not every country – or for that sake not every child – is as fortunate as we are.
This week we celebrate World Immunization Week, and the launch of a very special campaign called Shot@Life. As a champion of this campaign, I’m calling upon everyone I know to join me in advocating for worldwide vaccines. Here in the U.S. it also happens to be National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). As immunization partners all across the country do what they can to bring attention to the importance of childhood vaccines, I plan to do the same for children here, there and everywhere.
I invite you to familiarize yourself with the Shot@Life campaign here and help me spread the word with the ideas below:
- Show your support by changing your Facebook profile picture to incorporate the shot at life logo, as seen here.
- Share sample tweets and status updates from the Shot@Life campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
- Commit to spending 15 minutes of each day this week to spread the word about the importance of global vaccines. Here’s how.
- Follow the hashtag #vaccineswork and join me, along with the Gates Foundation and the Million Moms Challenge, for a special Shot@Life Twitter party on Thursday, 4/26 from 9am -12pm ET.
- Make a donation in any amount. Just $20 provides a lifetime of immunity to protect a child from pneumonia, diarrhea, polio and measles.
I once read,
“Our lives begin to end the moment we are silent about what really matters.”
Well today, what really matters is that my daughter is celebrating her 7th birthday – whether I am there with her or not. And I want to do all that I can to ensure children around the world have access to life-saving vaccines so that they have a shot at celebrating birthday milestones as well.
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